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Women leaders should emulate Thatcher

By - | May 5th 2013

By Jane Godia

When Margaret Thatcher took over as Prime Minister of Britain in 1979, the country had huge problems. Workers were always on strike and things were not going well. However, she was able to change all these and Britain’s face changed for the better.

Thatcher ruled Britain for the longest time, 1979 to 1990 being the first woman Prime Minister, and serving for the longest period than anyone else in the past 150 years.

As Thatcher was laid to rest on April 17, many recalled that her toughness had made Soviet Union nickname her the Iron Lady. She was a no nonsense leader and even though she made friends and enemies alike, she made a mark as a woman leader.

Today Kenya has 67 women in Parliament. There is no woman governor but there are nine deputy governors and 16 women who were nominated to the Senate and joined by one living with disability and a youth.

There are 47 women who were elected as Women Representatives from the counties. When the elections bell rang, six women were nominated to vie for Governor, 18 for Senator and 197 for Parliament. However, hundreds more were nominated to vie for the County ward representative positions. Out of the 1,450 wards only 85 women were elected.

While we celebrate the women who were elected, Kenya mourns the loss of a strong crop of women who lost in the elections. These are Martha Karua, Prof Margaret Kamar, Charity Ngilu, Margaret Wanjiru, Peris Simam, Beatrice Kones, Sally Kosgei, and Jebii Kilimo. These were the strong women of Kenya and Karua was actually nicknamed the ‘Iron Lady’. The only sad thing is that none was replaced by another woman.

According to Dr Miria Matembe, a former Member of Parliament in Uganda, the biggest loss for Kenyans is that the women who had already gained political experience lost.

“Even though the strong women lost, the new crop must be strong enough to take over from where they left,” notes Matembe.

All these women who were elected must prove that they are the Thatchers of Kenya. They must not hide behind numbers and fail to deliver. They have the task of proving to Kenyans who look down upon women’s leadership that they are equal to the task.

“There has been no political goodwill to support women at the level of governance in Kenya,” notes Matembe, adding that those who were running for political positions that needed running mates did not consider picking women as running mates.

“It is a shame that only 16 women were elected to Parliament. Those who are there must show they are capable and then they will have an impact in Parliament,” she notes.

They must learn the art mobilising support in Parliament and prove they are capable.

The constitution of Uganda is a good example to quote because it has empowered women to participate in the political process and that is why elected women represent 35 per cent of the positions.

Below the government in Uganda, there are districts. Every District must elect a woman to Parliament. It is through the district constituencies that women MPs’ number has increased.

Kenyan women legislators must not serve power but hasten to promote gender issues and participate beyond numbers. They must participate to influence policies and programmes and make the laws gender sensitive.

Even though the quota system is important, at times it is used to capture and patronise women and then they are unable to influence or oppose Government agenda, especially when it is not gender sensitive.

The women who are in Kenya’s national and county assemblies as well as senate, whether elected or nominated must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that women can be outstanding political leaders.

They must be able to speak up, and negotiate within and without the National Assembly, Senate or County Assemblies. They must show that they are the Iron Ladies who can influence change and make a notable difference.

The writer works with African Woman and Child Feature Service

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